to leave (just) 9 year old home alone after school

(187 Posts)
redskyatnight Thu 17-Jan-13 12:31:33

Really in 2 minds about this so seeking some clarity …

DH normally looks after DS after school, however he has a business trip coming up and will be away for 2-3 weeks.

All the childminders/after school clubs that might take DS are full or wouldn’t consider it for a short period.

We can call in various favours from friends but realistically wouldn’t have enough to cover the whole period (friends have other commitments after school and we wouldn’t ask any 1 friend to have him for more than 1 or 2 afternoons anyway in the interests of not imposing).

DS is brought home every day by a neighbour (who is one of the people we could ask to look after him for the odd time or 2).
I can jig my work hours so that I will be home at most an hour after him.
DS has just turned 9.

Both DH and I have memories of letting ourselves in after school and being alone for a similar period at a similar age. So DH has suggested that we give DS a key and ask the neighbour to make sure that he does get in ok (and put her and a couple of other neighbours on standby in case of emergencies). DS would most likely watch TV or play on the Wii for the whole time.

Are we (or would we) BU?

(and for those who mumble about we should have a proper back up plan I should point out it is highly unusual for DH to be away for so long at a time- he normally only goes away for 2 or 3 days which we can cope with).

madwomanintheattic Sat 19-Jan-13 20:22:36

Oopsa, it's about context.

The context where social workers and your sis get involved is a far cry from normal developmental stages in stable situations.

And your friends may well be quite happy doing it with their 9yos, but not telling you for fear you'd report them to ss. grin

LilyBolero Sat 19-Jan-13 19:01:54

The point is though, that even if you say 'it's ok once they get to secondary', imo going from a position where a child is never left on their own, straight to the situation where they not only are on their own, but are not in the safety of their homes, but travelling across a busy city, crossing busy roads, negotiating public transport, and with lots of contact with strangers, is highly irresponsible and places the child at much higher risk.

A child who has had some experience of looking after themselves, within a safe environment, will be far better equipped to deal with problems out of the house, where the environment is far more unpredictable.

oopsadaisymaisy Sat 19-Jan-13 18:48:25

Well social services might laugh, its still my view and I would never leave my child alone for a long period unless I was reasonably nearby. I know a lot of people with children around this age and not one of them would even consider leaving heir children on their own. Maybe when they get to secondary but not before. Its my view, I don't expect everyone to agree. I work with social workers and my sister is a children and families sw. Some social workers would be concerned. I can guarantee it.

I agree that no child should be left on their own if they don't want to, and are uneasy or sad or scared about it.

But if the child is eager, and the parent thinks the child is mature enough, and all the other things discussed here have been set out and done then it is just a matter of choice and there is nothing wrong with the parents and child deciding it is something they can do.

There is no right or wrong here. It's up to each family.

I personally don't think it will do my DS any long term (or short term) damage to have to call me for help rather than have me there.

He came to my work after school one day as we had pre-arranged. It was the first time he had been there and the plan was that he calls me when he is outside and I let him in. As it was he forgot his phone so couldn't call me, so he thought on his feet, assessed the situation, walked around the building and found a way in and then searched for the right department and asked someone if they knew which room was mine. He found me, he was fine, he wasn't even phased by this in the least, just rather proud of himself for finding me by himself. Tha'ts how I know he is mature enough to be left, because he acts like that in unexpected situations. Another child might not act like that, and then I probably wouldn't leave them in situations where they might not cope.

Each to their own and all that. There is no right or wrong answer here. Personally I tihnk most kids could handle it by Year 5 (not so sure about Year 4s though).

My DS turned 9 last Sept & I am happy to leave him for up to an hour.
He is v responsible though,
He has contact numbers in case he needs/wants to talk to someone.
I think you know your own child.

DS will go to middle school in Sept 2013 and will walk to & from school himself (good 20 min walk) and I want him to feel confident & he knows the trust i have in him

LilyBolero Sat 19-Jan-13 14:50:07

Well fwiw my kids (and their friends) LOVE being left on their own, and beg me to leave them when the others have activities on. So I really don't think the 'not daring to say' is an issue for them, or their friends.

twentyten Sat 19-Jan-13 14:30:51

Could you get a local 6th former to come in and babysit?

LaQueen Sat 19-Jan-13 14:27:48

ygg yes, I do agree with you on that. How many 8/9/10 year old children are left alone at home, feeling uneasy, but their parents have made them feel that they don't really have a choice in the matter - and that if the child raises an objection, then they're perhaps being baby-ish and 'need to grow up a bit.'

That would be very sad, indeed.

LaQueen Sat 19-Jan-13 14:25:26

yggd I do see your point.

But, as a parent I don't ever want to put my 9 year old DD in the situation where she is alone and concerned about something, and yet can only tell me about it over the phone.

At 9, I just think that is wrong.

A 8/9 year old's perception and ability to rationalise and reason is still fuzzy, and not as well defined as a 11/12 year old. Psychological tests have demonstrated that the ability of primary age children to judge things like speed of cars, relative passage of time etc is still quite impared - compared to a 11/12 year old.

yggdrasil Sat 19-Jan-13 13:07:24

The only thing I'd say is that if the OP's child does not want to stay at home alone...on the Wii...then that is something different. I don't believe a child this age should be forced into this situation before they are ready because it could be downright scary.

I'm assuming that the kid is enthusiastic however and if so I think its a really safe way to ease into a bit of independence. As another poster said, depending on your situation, it really can be all change at age 11.

5madthings Sat 19-Jan-13 12:59:48

Ultimately we only know our own children, some would be fine with this.

My ds1 (now 13) would have been.

Ds2 is 10 and I would let him do it now but maybe not a year ago.

Ds3 is 8 and I think he could be fine with this in the next year.

All children and all situations are variable, its up to us as parents to make the call for our own child.

LilyBolero Sat 19-Jan-13 12:50:34

Actually I just thought; our state primary gives Y4/5 as the age when it is appropriate for kids to walk home alone, do I don't believe for a second that social services would be worried about a 9yo at home for an hour with phone numbers, and neighbours on hand.

It does worry me that society has lost sight of what is a 'real' risk and what is just hysteria.

yggdrasil Sat 19-Jan-13 12:43:45

well no, I disagree, laqueen

its a matter of degree. Clearly being a mile away for an hour is not the same as being in the same house for that hour. Clearly scary things CAN happen, I don't think there's any debate there. The debate is over whether the infintessimally small chance of something he can't cope with coming up is enough to outweigh the benefits of having the experience of staying home alone.

The incident you described is awful, please don't get me wrong. But it just is not the same as the situation the OP describes in terms of risk.

a. The OP's kid is 9. If anything happened, assuming he's a reasonably sorted kid which he sounds to be, he'd be able to call his mum for advice, call on a neighbour or just get himself out of his house.

b. In the worst case scenario, a mile is no distance for a nine year old to walk (or get a taxi-I presume the OP will leave emergency money and so on) and get to his mum's work.

c. He will not be asleep. He will be awake and doing low risk activities. I assume he will not be cooking or anything.

LilyBolero Sat 19-Jan-13 12:40:12

To the poster who said 'the child is 9, not 11'; that is true. I was simply showing the level of independence they need at 11, and to attain that, they probably need to be having some independence such as being at home alone from 9 onwards.

Fwiw, don't imagine the kids are necessarily 'safe' just because you are in the house with them. A fire could still harm them. I knew someone who was home with his 3yo. A burglar broke in, killed the parent. The 3yo was there with his body for 3 days. sad

And as I said earlier, driving is about the biggest risk we take with children, but we don't think twice about it.

LaQueen Sat 19-Jan-13 12:36:24

Not really yydg if the DDs had been older they would still have been asleep, and would have probably suffocated in their sleep.

I admit what happened to us was incredibly rare. But it just highlights that all this talk about 'Oh I'm only a mile away...Oh it's only for an hour...' is actually totally meaningless and irrelevent.

usualsuspect Sat 19-Jan-13 12:34:34

I'm sure my children at 9 could have coped alone for an hour, I just didn't want them to have to.

yggdrasil Sat 19-Jan-13 12:34:24

"But then I know 9 year olds that cry if Mums not waiting outside the school gates on time, can't shower themselves or make a drink without help. "

See to me, assuming its coming about because the parents didn't bother to teach them, (I know some kids are just resistant to learning self reliance, that's different!) that is closer to neglect that teaching a kid to be self reliant enough to cope for an hour in the house with his mum running distance away.

yggdrasil Sat 19-Jan-13 12:31:55

errr...bit of a difference LaQueen. You're talking about babies, I presume.

I really hate to say it, but that's a situation that could easily have happened, presumably, with you in the house but asleep. It could have happened in your room. Any number of possibilities. And there are basic, obvious things that I am sure that the OP will have done. Made sure the fire alarm is working (its the first thing we check on entering a rental property). Made sure her son knew what to do if the house was, god forbid, on fire.

I agree that if a nine year old is unable to notice that the house is on fire then it would be unwise to leave him alone. In that situation, however, I suggest it might be beneficial too work on his skills.

I hate to say this, but any one of our kids could actually end up left alone in the house at any age. For years, I had three very small kids in the house with me, sometimes for days when my partner worked away. Noone who necessarily would check up. If I'd fallen down the stairs or keeled over, god only knows what would have happened. I did teach them quite early to use the phone and so on, but you know, these skills are important. Yes its unlikely anything could happen but probably less unlikely than a freak incident when in your home for an hour playing on the wii.

conorsrockers Sat 19-Jan-13 12:30:52

I am always a bit blush at these threads. Personally, I would do it, and I do. But then I know 9 year olds that cry if Mums not waiting outside the school gates on time, can't shower themselves or make a drink without help.
My DS1 now 10 stays at home regularly alone, rather than getting dragged out to his younger brothers football matches or come to the shops (and has done since about 8). He has to take a flight alone soon and didn't bat an eyelid when we discussed the logistics.
If you've brought your kids up to be independent and sensible then I don't see a problem. At all.
... and the fact you have neighbours is great, he can go to them if there's a problem ... our nearest neighbour is over a mile away!

LaQueen Sat 19-Jan-13 12:23:59

As for the Mum being only a mile away...that's meaningless.

7 years ago DH and I rented a cottage. We settled the DDs in their cots at bedtime, went back downstairs and debated whether to sit outside in the cottage's own courtyard and enjoy a glass of wine.

Thank God we didn't sad

Unbeknownst to us, the extractor fan in the bathroom had caught fire, and set alight the bathroom curtains and some towels. The fire alarm failed to activate. The first we knew was the huge thump when the fan fell out of the ceiling - we nipped upstairs at the noise, and the upstairs was already thick with smoke. We had to grab the DDs out of their cots by touch because we couldn't see them - we ran outisde, called fire-brigade, and all was well.

However...if we had decided to have a drink outside in the courtyard, all of 20 feet from our DDs, we'd have sat drinking wine as they suffocated - the fire officer said the first we would have known of the fire would probably have been when the windows blew out, and it would have been far too late for the DDs.

I do think it's too young. As it's only for a limited amount of time, I'd call in favours, ask neighbours etc. Come home extra early one day (I realise you're already coming back earlier than usual)? Maybe a couple of days leave?

However I do think some people are being a bit hysterical! Look after your child, he deserves it hmm

LaQueen Sat 19-Jan-13 12:16:11

I have to agree with Chandon.

I think saying that leaving your 8/9 year old alone for upwards of an hour, or so is beneficial for the child because it teaches them independence/self reliance is just making a smug sounding virtue out of what is in fact a rather sad necessity.

At 8/9 I think a lot of children may be able to present the veneer of being able to cope alone at home alone, and even deal with a few surprises. But, personally I think it rather sad that they should need to develop these skills at still such a relatively young age - and when their ability to applyreason/apply logic/rationalise is still quite fuzzy.

Yes - perhaps most 8/9 year old children could cope with being alone...but, I don't think they should have to.

TheSnowFairy Sat 19-Jan-13 12:12:29

I think it totally depends on the child. TBH, I'd feel better about my 8 yr old staying by himself than his elder brother grin

These threads drive me nuts! Everytime this comes up people start talking about it being illegal etc - there is NO law on this stuff - it's up to you! Even the age of the babysitter! You can be prosecuted if it's negligent. And breathe.
www.childrenslegalcentre.com/userfiles/Home%20Alone.pdf

usualsuspect Sat 19-Jan-13 11:54:14

OPs DS is 9 not 11.

I would be ok with an 11 year old being left, just not a 9 year old.

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